Summer School for Mom: Establishing the Atmosphere

Summer School for Mom: Establishing the Atmosphere

One foundational aspect of educating our children at home that is often overlooked is the learning atmosphere we create.

In institutionalized settings, “school” happens between 8:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. each day — unless there is homework.  This unintentional, but obviously necessary, element leaves children with the impression that learning is something they do five days a week for nine months each year excepting holidays.  In a home setting, we have a chance to instill the idea that learning is something that is always happening.

We also have an opportunity to encourage learning — even when our child may be discouraged.  We can go at his pace instead of the book’s pace.  We can start where he is and build him up, instead of tearing him down each time there is something he doesn’t understand.  He can know that he is accepted just as he is, and starting from there we can help him overcome his weaknesses and take advantage of his strengths.

There is an opportunity in home education to live widely — to provide a wide array of books, space to move and learn, real-life projects to practice skills on, and opportunities to interact with the world.  This, my friends, is learning at its best!

So how do we get there?  Here are 5 areas to consider when it comes to setting the atmosphere in our homes:


The Relationships

What makes a good mentor or tutor?  The relationship he maintains with the student.  That is greatly simplified when the mentor or tutor is his mother!

Our relationship with the Lord will be our first priority.  It is how they see us living out our faith that will have the biggest impact on our children’s faith.  And it is this first relationship that will provide the strength we will daily need to establish the atmosphere in our homes.

Our relationship with our husbands will be our second priority.  There is great security for children when their parents respect each other and the home atmosphere in general is inviting and warm.

Our relationship with our children (hopefully) starts on the strong foundation of love.  And there are ways we can invest in our children — appreciate who they are, what their interests are, make time to be involved in their interests, encourage, and guide.  All of this takes time.  It takes time to love, to train, to guide, to nourish, to encourage, to motivate, and to inspire.  It is truly an investment in each child.

Our relationship with others will be modeled by our children.  They can come alongside as we serve, love, and minster to others each and every day in simple, natural ways.

Of course, mothers are not perfect.  Some days these relationships will prove difficult, at best.  Don’t be surprised.  It is through these relationships that we grow!

Thoughts to Ponder
  • What are practical ways you can put your relationship with the Lord first each day?
  • How might you better respect and serve your husband, creating a warm and inviting home life for your children?
  • What are the different ways you can invest in each child?  Make a list of the ideas that come immediately to mind.
  • What opportunities can you provide for your children to serve others alongside you?  Keep it simple — a smile, a kind word, a warm gesture, etc.
Further Reading

Relationships: The Key to MentoringRelationships: The Key to Mentoring
Without these relationships any education is void of the living stuff that makes learning stick.


Helps For New Homeschoolers: Part 4 – Finding StrengthHelps For New Homeschoolers: Part 4 - Finding Strength
Encouragement to daily build our relationship with Him.


"How to Build a Storm-Proof Marriage"“How to Build a Storm-Proof Marriage”
Great article that includes different ways we can invest in our marriage.


Elisabeth Elliot on Marriage {Free eBook}Elisabeth Elliot on Marriage {Free eBook}
Children are very observant.  Their views of marriage and relationships are formed by watching our own.


Making an Investment in Our ChildrenMaking an Investment in Our Children
Different ways we can develop our relationship with them.


Expectations... Performance... ConsequencesExpectations… Performance… Consequences
Maintaining our relationship with our children…even when they disappoint us.



The Routine

I know, when we hear the word routine we cringe!  It does sound rather monotonous and boring.  But children thrive on routine.  There is security in knowing what happens next and what they can expect from the day.  There is peace in a consistent and non-chaotic atmosphere.  There are opportunities to develop good habits within a routine that is maintained daily.  And children who routinely eat and sleep at the same time each day are typically happy children.

We’ll talk more about creating a workable homeschool schedule in a later addition, but remember that homeschooling works best when it fits into the general home routine, rather than the other way around.  With that in mind, it may be best to limit some outside activities, or reschedule some activities so that trips out all happen on the same day.  Other ideas for establishing a routine include setting regular bedtimes, trying to have meals at the same time each day, or establishing a chore schedule.

Of course, life will happen.  Routines will be disrupted.  But even during crises, children can find it very calming to get back on the track they run on each day.

Thoughts to Ponder
  • How will you establish your homeschooling routine?  Maintain a strict time schedule?  Schedule in blocks of time (first table time, then productive time, then reading time, etc.)?  Create a to-do list?  Or some other way?
  • Do you feel that you need to establish a more consistent routine?  How will you manage outside activities and appointments?
  • Is sitting down to eat meals together as a family something that is important to you?    Are there specific times when you can regularly have meals prepared?  Are there ways to make this task easier on you (creating a meal plan for each week or preparing meals in advance, for example)?
  • What events create chaos in your home?  Are there ways you can think of to keep to a steady routine even during those times?
Further Reading

9 Tips for Moving from Chaos to Peace9 Tips for Moving from Chaos to Peace
Ideas for establishing a steady routine.


10 Ideas for Overcoming Lazy Habits10 Ideas for Overcoming Lazy Habits
Not at all implying that those without a routine are lazy!  However, there are tips in this article that may help some develop routines.



The Time

So many children these days have their entire life scheduled for them.  They never have to choose what they will do — someone or something is always available to keep them entertained.  Their activities are persistently organized for them.

We don’t want our children to believe that learning is confined to one place or time, but that the world is ripe to learn in.  With this in mind, we can provide them with a wide array of opportunities in which to learn.  Then they will need time to think and to ponder.  Time to explore, run, and play.  And time to just be.

The key to using the time we have wisely when it comes to the activities our children engage in each day is understanding the difference between recreation and entertainment.

Thoughts to Ponder
  • Do you feel your children have enough unscheduled downtime?
  • Do you feel their unscheduled time is adequately filled with productive pursuits rather than passive entertainment?
  • Do you feel your children get outside enough?  If not, what are different ways you might remedy this?
Further Reading

Making Time for Room to ThinkMaking Time for Room to Think
Why we do our children a disservice by scheduling so many of their hours for them, and what we can do instead!


6 Ways to Encourage Active Recreation6 Ways to Encourage Active Recreation
From our DIYHomeschooler site.



The Fodder

The wealth of the world is stored in books.  Living books help us learn about people, places, things, history, and how things work.  We come in contact with God, heroes, concepts, vistas, and people just like us.

Reading aloud as a family creates a unique family culture.  The discussions that often result give us opportunities to share experiences and thoughts.

Of course, choosing the quality, living books we make available is a weighty task.  But through those books, we can open up the world to our children!

Thoughts to Ponder
  • What resources will form the backbone of your own living book list?  What criteria will you use to determine what books are added to the list, and which ones are left off?
  • Is there a time in your schedule for each child to read independently?
  • Is including time in your day to read aloud as a family important to you?  If so, how can you create a block of time for read-alouds?
Further Reading

9 Ways to Encourage a Life-Long Reading Habit9 Ways to Encourage a Life-Long Reading Habit
Ways to make time for reading.


Living BooksLiving Books
Thoughts on what they are and how to find them.


Book Lists
A collection of resources to help you establish your own living book list from our DIYHomeschooler site.



The Inspiration

Someone once said that you don’t go to school to learn, you go to school to learn how to learn.  And what better way to practice skills and learn how to learn than to practice on things we are interested in?  Allowing time in our day for our children to apply themselves to their own interests gives them a chance to learn on their own and to escape the need to always be entertained.

You’ll find many helps below that cover the benefits of including that time, providing that time, and filling that time.

Thoughts to Ponder
  • What types of things are your children interested in?  Make a list for each child.
  • What different ways can you think of to encourage their interests?
  • Do you feel your children have enough time in their day to pursue their interests?
  • How will you hold them accountable for how they use this time?
Further Reading

4 Ways to Provide Time for Productive Interests4 Ways to Provide Time for Productive Interests
The goals and how to get there.


Finding 10,000 HoursFinding 10,000 Hours
Learning at its best!


6 Ways to Encourage Your Children to Pursue Their Interests6 Ways to Encourage Your Children to Pursue Their Interests
What if they are not interested?



Additional Resources

3 Considerations When Setting the Atmosphere3 Considerations When Setting the Atmosphere
Investing in our children, loving and accepting them, and … well … the rest is up to us!


For the Children's SakeFor the Children’s Sake by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay
This book was foundational when it came to setting the atmosphere in our own home.  There were so many thoughts that resonated the first read through, that I simply couldn’t absorb it all.  I think I’ve read it four times, and I will likely be picking it up again.  If you can only purchase one book on homeschooling — this is the one!  Read our entire review.



Enjoy the entire series:

Summer School for Mom